| Chapter 26 |
Yuan Shao Loses Another Leader;
As the last chapter closed, Liu Bei had been condemned to die.
Liu Bei spoke up, however, and said, "Pray hear one word, Illustrious Sir, before you decide. I have lost sight of my brother since my misfortune at Xuzhou and know not whether Guan Yu be dead or alive. There are many men in the world who resemble him. Is every red-faced man with a beard named Guan Yu? Should you not rather seek some evidence?"
Now Yuan Shao was impulsive and facile by nature, and when Liu Bei spoke thus, he suddenly turned upon Ju Shou, saying, "By wrongly regarding what you said, I nearly killed an innocent person."
Then Yuan Shao requested Liu Bei once more to resume his seat in the tent and give advice on how to avenge Yan Liang.
Soon from the lower end a voice was heard, saying, "Yan Liang and I were as brothers, and can I allow any other to avenge his death?"
The speaker was a man of eight-span height with a face like a jilin, a famous leader from the North of Yellow River, named Wen Chou.
Yuan Shao was pleased and said, "You are the only man who can do it. I will give you one hundred thousand troops, and you can cross the Yellow River, and quickly smite that rebel Cao Cao.
"You cannot do it. Wen Chou will fail," said Ju Shou. "The proper course is to hold Yenjin and detach a force to Guandu. If you rashly cross the river and anything goes wrong, not a soul will return."
Yuan Shao said, "That is always the way with you fellows, always delaying and taking the dash out of the army. You put off today and postpone tomorrow till success has become impossible. Do you forget that promptitude is what each soldier honors?"
The adviser withdrew sadly, saying, "Superiors do not curb their ambitions; inferiors crave for achievements; things are undone. Eternal is the course of Yellow River, shall I change it?"
Thereafter Ju Shou feigned illness and went no more to the council.
Liu Bei said, "I have received much kindness at your hands and have been unable to show my gratitude. I would accompany General Wen Chou that I may repay your bounty and also that I may hear news of my brother."
Yuan Shao gladly consented and ordered Wen Chou to share his command with Liu Bei.
But the former objected, saying, "Liu Bei has been so often defeated that it will augur ill for success this time. Since you wish, I will give Liu Bei command of the rear guard of thirty thousand soldiers."
And this being approved, three legions were told off under Liu Bei's special command to follow the main body.
The prowess displayed by Guan Yu in the bold attack on Yan Liang redoubled Cao Cao's respect for him, and Cao Cao memorialized the Throne that Guan Yu receive the title of Lord of Hanshou, and a seal was cast for him.
Just then came the unexpected news that Yuan Shao's army had moved toward the Yellow River and was in position above Yenjin. Cao Cao first sent to transfer the inhabitants to the west bank and then led out an army to oppose Yuan Shao. He issued an order to face about, thus placing the rear companies in front. The commissariat wagons were also placed in the van.
"What is this reversal for?" asked Lu Qian.
Cao Cao replied, "When the supplies are in rear, they are liable to be plundered. So I have put them first."
"But if you meet the enemy and they steal them?"
"Wait till the enemy appears. I shall know what to do."
Lu Qian was much exercised at this new move of the Prime Minister. In the meantime the supply train moved along the river toward Yenjin. Presently the foremost troops raised a great shout, and Cao Cao sent to see what it meant.
The messenger came back, saying, "Wen Chou's army is approaching, and the supply train has been abandoned and is at the mercy of the enemy. The main body is still far behind. What to do next?"
Thereupon Cao Cao pointed to two mounds, saying, "We will take refuge here for the present."
All those near him hastened to the mounds. There Cao Cao ordered them all to loosen their dress, lay aside their breastplates, and rest a time. The horsemen turned their steeds loose.
Wen Chou's soldiers approached under cover. As they drew near, the officers told Cao Cao, saying, "The rebels are near. We ought to catch the horses and go back to Baima."
But Adviser Xun You checked them, saying, "These are a bait for the enemy. Why retire?"
Cao Cao glanced across at him and said, "He understands. Do not say anything."
Now having got possession of the supply carts, the enemy next came to seize the horses. By this time they had all broken ranks and were scattered, each soldier going his own way. Then suddenly Cao Cao gave the order to go down from the mounds and smite them.
The surprise was complete. Wen Chou's army was in confusion, and Cao Cao's army surrounded them. Wen Chou made a stand, but those about him trampled each other down, and he could do nothing but flee. And he fled.
Then standing on the top of a mound Cao Cao pointed to the flying leader, calling out, "There is one of the most famous generals of the north. Who can capture him?"
Zhang Liao and Xu Huang both mounted and dashed after him, crying, "Wen Chou, do not run away!"
Looking round, the fugitive saw two pursuers, and then he set aside his spear, took his bow and adjusted an arrow, which he shot at Zhang Liao.
"Cease shooting, you rebel!" shouted Xu Huang.
Zhang Liao ducked his head, and the shaft went harmlessly by, save that it carried away the tassel of his cap. He only pressed harder in pursuit. The next arrow however struck his horse in the head, and the animal stumbled and fell, throwing its rider to the earth.
Then Wen Chou turned to come back. Xu Huang, whirling his battle-ax, stood in his way to stop Wen Chou. But Xu Huang saw behind Wen Chou several more horsemen coming to help; and as they would have been too many for him, he fled. Wen Chou pursued along the river bank. Suddenly he saw coming toward him with banners fluttering in the breeze, a small party of horse, and the leader carried a great sword.
"Stop!" cried Guan Yu, for it was he, and he attacked at once.
At the third bout Wen Chou's heart failed him, and he wheeled and fled, following the windings of the river. But Guan Yu's steed was fast and soon caught up. One blow, and the hapless Wen Chou fell.
When Cao Cao saw from the mound that the leader of the enemy had fallen, he gave the signal for a general onset, and half of the northern army were drowned in the river. And the carts with supplies and all the horses were quickly recovered.
Now Guan Yu, at the head of a few horsemen, was thrusting here and striking there at the moment when Liu Bei, with the thirty thousand reserve troops, appeared on the battle field on the other bank of the river. At once they told him that the red-faced, long-bearded warrior was there and had slain Wen Chou. Liu Bei hastily pressed forward to try to get a look at the warrior. He saw across the river a body of horse and the banners bore the words Guan Yu, Lord of Hanshou.
"Then it is my brother, and he is really with Cao Cao," said Liu Bei, secretly thanking God that Guan Yu was safe.
Liu Bei made an attempt to wait about till he could call to Guan Yu, but a great mass of Cao Cao's soldiers came rushing down, and he was forced to retire.
Yuan Shao, bringing reinforcements, reached Guandu and built a stockade.
Two advisers, Guo Tu and Shen Pei, went in to see him and said, "Again that fellow Guan Yu has been in the battle. He killed Wen Chou. Liu Bei pretends ignorance of him."
Their master was angry and railed at Liu Bei, "The long-cared rebel! How dare he do such a thing?"
Soon Liu Bei appeared. Again Yuan Shao ordered him out to instant execution.
"What crime have I committed?" asked Liu Bei.
"You sent your brother to slay one of my generals. Is that no crime?"
"Pray let me explain before I die. Cao Cao hated me and has always done so. Now he has found out where I am and, fearing that I may help you, has got my brother to destroy your two generals, feeling sure that when you heard of it, you would be angry and put me to death. You cannot fail to see this."
"What he says is sense," said Yuan Shao, turning to his advisers, "and you two nearly brought on me the reproach of injuring the good."
Yuan Shao ordered his attendants to retire and asked Liu Bei to come and sit by him.
Liu Bei came, saying, "I am deeply thankful, Illustrious Sir, for your great kindness, for which I can never be sufficiently grateful. Now I desire to send some confidential messenger with a secret letter to my brother to tell him where I am, and I am sure he will come without a moment's delay. He will help you to destroy Cao Cao to make up for having destroyed your two officers. Do you approve of this?"
"If I got Guan Yu, he would be ten times better than the Yan Liang and Wen Chou that I have lost," replied Yuan Shao.
So Liu Bei prepared a letter. But there was no one to take it. Yuan Shao ordered the army to withdraw to Wuyang, where they made a large camp. For some time nothing was done.
Then Cao Cao sent Xiahou Dun to defend the strategic points at Guandu while he led the bulk of the army back to the capital. There he gave many banquets in honor of the services of Guan Yu, and then he told Lu Qian that putting the supplies in the front of the army had been meant as a bait to draw the enemy to destruction.
"Only Xun You understood that," said Cao Cao in conclusion.
Everyone present praised his ingenuity. Even while the banquet was proceeding, there arrived news of a rising of Yellow Scarves rebels at Runan led by Liu Pi and Gong Du. They were very strong, and Cao Hong had been defeated in several engagements. Now he begged for help.
Guan Yu hearing this said, "I should like to have the opportunity of performing some service by destroying these rebels."
"You have already rendered noble services for which you have not been properly requited. I could hardly trouble you again," said Cao Cao.
"I have been idle too long. I shall get ill," said Guan Yu.
Cao Cao then let him to go and gave him fifty thousand troops with Yu Jin and Yue Jing as generals under him. They were to leave soon.
Then Xun Yu said privily to his master, "He always cherishes the idea of returning to Liu Bei. He will leave you if he hears any news. Do not let him go on this expedition."
"If he does well this time, I will not let him go into battle again," said Cao Cao.
In due time the force led by Guan Yu drew near the rebels in Runan and made their camp. One night, just outside his camp, two spies were caught and taken in to Guan Yu who in one of them recognized Sun Qian. The attendants being dismissed, Guan Yu questioned Sun Qian.
"After we lost sight of each other, I have heard not a word of you. What are you doing here?" said Guan Yu.
"After I escaped, I drifted hither and thither till I had the good fortune to reach Runan, and Liu Pi and Gong Du, the Yellow Scarves leaders, took me in. But why are you with Cao Cao, General? And where are your sisters-in-law? Are they well?"
Guan Yu told him all that had happened.
"I have heard lately that Liu Bei is with Yuan Shao. I would have liked to go and join him, but I have not found a convenient opportunity. Now the two men I am with have taken the side of Yuan Shao against Cao Cao. By good luck you were coming here, so I got command of a small party of scouts to be able to see you and tell you. Presently our two leaders will pretend to be defeated and you, and the two ladies, can go over to Yuan Shao. And you will see your brother."
"Since he is there, I certainly must go at once to see him. But it is a misfortune that I have slain two of Yuan Shao's generals. I fear things are not in my favor," said Guan Yu.
"Let me go first and see how the land lies. I will come back and tell you."
"I would risk a myriad deaths to see my brother," said Guan Yu. "But I must go to say farewell to Cao Cao."
Sun Qian was sent away that night, and next day Guan Yu led out his army to offer battle. Gong Du, in armor, went out to the front of the line of battle, and Guan Yu said, "You people, why have you risen against the government?"
"Why do you blame us when you have turned your back on your own lord?" replied Gong Du.
"How have I turned my back on my lord?"
"Liu Bei is with Yuan Shao, and you are with Cao Cao. What is that?"
Guan Yu could not reply, but he whirled round his sword and rode forward. Gong Du fled, and Guan Yu followed. Gong Du turned and said to Guan Yu, "Do not forget your old chief's kindness. Now attack as soon as you can, and I will give up the defense."
Guan Yu understood and urged on his troops. The leaders of the rebels pretended they were worsted, and they all scattered. So Runan was retaken. Having pacified the people, Guan Yu quickly led his army back to the capital, where he was met by Cao Cao and congratulated on his success and feasted.
When this was all over, Guan Yu went to the dwelling of his sisters-in-law to pay his respects at their gate.
"Have you been able to get any news of Uncle Liu Bei in your two expeditions?" asked Lady Gan.
"None," replied Guan Yu.
As he retired from the door, he heard sounds of bitter weeping within.
"Alas! He is dead," said they. "Our brother-in-law thinks we shall be greatly distressed; and thus, he hides the truth from us."
One of the old soldiers, who acted as guard, hearing the sounds of perpetual grief, took pity on them and said, "Do not weep, ladies. Your lord is with Yuan Shao in the North of Yellow River."
"How do you know that?" said they.
"I went out with General Guan Yu, and one of the soldiers told me."
The two ladies summoned Guan Yu and reproached him, saying, "Uncle Liu Bei never betrayed you, and yet you remain here enjoying the bounty of Cao Cao and forgetting the old times. And you tell us falsehoods."
Guan Yu bowed his head, saying, "My brother really is in the North of Yellow River, but I dared not tell you, lest it should become known. Something must be done, but done carefully, and it needs time."
"Brother-in-law, you should hasten," said Lady Gan.
Guan Yu withdrew feeling that he must evolve some scheme of departure without further loss of time. It caused him much uneasiness.
Yu Jin, having found out that Liu Bei was in the north, told Cao Cao, who at once sent Zhang Liao to find out Guan Yu's intentions.
Zhang Liao entered jauntily and congratulated Guan Yu, saying, "They tell me you obtained news of your brother in the battlefield. I felicitate you."
"My lord was there indeed, but I met him not. I see nothing to be glad about."
"Is there any difference between the relationship of you two and that of any other two brothers?"
Guan Yu replied, "You and I stand in the relationship of friends. Liu Bei and I are friends and brothers beside, and prince and minister in addition to both. Our relationship cannot be discussed in usual terms."
"Well, now that you know where your brother is, are you going to him?"
"How can I go back on what I said before? I am sure you will explain fully to the Prime Minister."
Zhang Liao went back and told his master, who said, "I must find a way to keep him here."
While Guan Yu was pondering over his difficulties, they told him that a friend had come to inquire for him. The visitor was introduced but Guan Yu did not recognize him.
"Who are you?" asked Guan Yu.
"I am Chen Zhen of Nanyang, in the service of Yuan Shao."
In great perturbation, Guan Yu sent away the attendants and, they being gone, said, "There is some special reason for your visit?"
For reply Chen Zhen drew out a letter and handed it to his host, who recognized that it was from his brother Liu Bei. The letter read:
"I, the writer, and you, Sir, pledged ourselves in the Peach Garden to die together. Why then are we apart and yet alive, our kindly feelings destroyed, our sense of right outraged? If you desire to obtain fame and acquire riches and honor, I will offer my head without hesitation so that your achievement is fulfilled. More might be said, but I await your commands with great anxiety."
Guan Yu finished the letter with a bitter cry.
"I always wanted to find my brother, but I did not know where he was. How can he think such evil of me?" said he.
"Liu Bei looks for you very eagerly. If you are still bound by the old pledge, you should go quickly," said Chen Zhen.
"Anyone born into the world without the essential virtue of sincerity is no true human. I came here openly and can go in no other way. Now will I write a letter which I will ask you to bear to my brother, that as soon as I can take leave of Cao Cao, I will bring the ladies and come to him."
"But what if Cao Cao refuse to let you go?" said Chen Zhen.
"Then would I rather die. I will not remain here."
"Then, Sir, quickly write your letter and relieve your brother from his anxiety."
So Guan Yu wrote like this:
"I, the humble one, know full well that a human of principle does not betray and a human of loyalty despises death. I have been a student in my youth and know somewhat of the proprieties. I sigh and weep at the memory of the fraternal affection that made Yangjue Ai and Zuo Botao die rather than separate. I was in charge of Xiapi, but the place lacked provision and there was no help. I would have fought to the death, but there was on my shoulders the responsibility for my sisters-in-law. Wherefore I had to take care of my body lest I betrayed your trust. And so I made a prisoner of myself, hoping to find a way of release. I heard of you lately in Runan. I must, however, bid farewell to Cao Cao and bring the ladies with me when I come. May I perish, victim to the superhuman powers, if I have harbored any traitorous thought. Ink and paper are poor substitutes for what I would say, but I look to see you soon."
Chen Zhen left with this missive, and Guan Yu went to tell the women. Then he proceeded to the Prime Minister's palace to say farewell. But Cao Cao knew what he was coming for, and at the gate Guan Yu found the board intimating that no one could be received. So he had to return. However, he bade his own few soldiers prepare to start at any moment. He also gave orders that everything received from Cao Cao was to be left in the quarters. Nothing was to be taken.
Next day he again proceeded to the palace to say farewell to his patron, but again found the board hanging there to show there was no admission. So it was several times; he could never enter. Then he went to see Zhang Liao, but Zhang Liao was indisposed.
"This means Cao Cao will not let me go," thought Guan Yu. "But I am going, and I shall hesitate no longer."
So he wrote this letter:
"As a young man I entered the service of the Imperial Uncle, and pledged myself to share his fortunes. Heaven and Earth witnessed this oath. When I lost the city, I made three requests which you granted. Now I hear my brother is with Yuan Shao and I, remembering our pledge, cannot but go to him. Though your bounty is great, I forget not the bond of the past; wherefore I write this letter of farewell trusting that when you have read it, you will be content for me to postpone to another season the proof of my gratitude."
Guan Yu sealed and sent it to the palace. Then he deposited in the treasury of his dwelling all the gold and silver he had received, hung his seal of lordship of Hanshou in the middle of the reception hall and left, taking his sisters-in-law with him in a carriage. He rode Red Hare and carried the green-dragon saber in his hand. With a small escort of guards, those formerly under his command, he left the city by the north gate.
The wardens would have stopped him, but Guan Yu frightened them with a fierce shout. Having got out, he told the escort to go in front with the carriage while he would remain behind to guard against pursuit. So they pushed the carriage toward the high road.
In the city, Guan Yu's letter reached the Prime Minister while he was consulting about what to do. He read it and exclaimed, "So he has left!"
Then the warden of the gate came to report that Guan Yu had forced his way out, and was gone with a carriage, a horse, and a score of guards. Next came the servants from his house to report that he had left, taking nothing of the treasure, nor anyone of the waiting maids. Everything was left in the house. Even his seal was there. His only escort were the few soldiers of his original force.
Suddenly from the assembly of officers rose a voice, saying, "With three thousand of mailed horse, I will bring him back alive."
Their eyes turned to the speaker, who was General Cai Yang.
What came of this offer to pursue will be seen in the next chapter.
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